MLB NRFI Picks Today, Model Predictions for Tuesday, September 5

MLB NRFI Picks Today, Model Predictions for Tuesday, September 5 article feature image

Lance McMillan/Toronto Star via Getty Images. Pictured: Chris Bassitt

We got the week off on the right foot Monday, going 2-1 for a small profit.

Let's keep that going today, with a busier Tuesday slate of baseball.

The Model

The process is relatively simple. First, I start by assuming that the full game (implied) run totals for either team are roughly efficient. As mentioned above, that tends to be the case more often than not. This saves me the trouble of trying to predict the total runs scored in the game — and allows me to focus strictly on the "when" rather than "how many."

Next, I built a database of pitchers performance the first time through the order, relative to their overall stats. Since the latter is presumably baked into the full game total, I wanted to figure out if those runs are more likely to come early or late. Most — but not all — MLB starters do somewhat better early in games, but with some variance in just how much. The model uses xFIP (expected Fielding Independent Pitching) as the ERA predictor of choice.

That's only half of the equation, though, with the offenses making up the other half. To do this, I looked at what percentage of a team's total runs is produced by the top three batters in the lineup. While a first inning run scored, by definition, needs at least four hitters to come to the plate, one of the first three has to actually score it. The metric of choice here is wRC+, based on the projected lineup for the day from each team.

This is a bit of a tradeoff, as lineups (and run totals) can shift throughout the day, especially if significant contributors miss time. However, in my experience the inefficiency of the morning lines more than makes up for the leakage in the model. With that said, exercise caution if, say, Mike Trout is listed as questionable for the nights game.

The Picks

With all of the picks below, I'll include the pick, the best line and the threshold I'd bet it to. These will go up in the morning, so if any major news breaks between publishing and when you read it, be sure to consider that.

Infrequently, rather than betting on the traditional YRFI/NRFI, the pick will be on one team or the other specifically to score a run, which as of this writing is only a betting option at DraftKings. Since the model handles each team individually, sometimes one team is projecting for a greater proportion of the "run equity" in the first inning than the betting lines are accounting for.

NRFI Odds, Picks for Tuesday, September 5

Cleveland Guardians vs. Minnesota Twins NRFI: Two of the slate's better pitchers square off, with an appropriately low eight-run total. With neither team especially top-heavy, that makes this an easy choice at fairly low juice.

Miami Marlins vs. Los Angeles Dodgers NRFI: I don't love taking NRFIs with the Dodgers involved, but the quality of starting pitching here makes it too good to pass up. Clayton Kershaw and Jesus Luzardo both have ERAs in the low twos their first time through the order, which is low enough to outweigh the offensive firepower.

Tampa Bay Rays vs. Boston Red Sox YRFI: Two good offenses here, especially against righties, where Tampa ranks second in MLB in wRC+. While both pitchers are solid their first time through the order, neither is dominant enough to fade the quality of bats.

Oakland A's vs. Toronto Blue Jays NRFI: The Toronto side is a bit scary, as it's a solid offense against lefties and facing a mediocre (at best) one in Ken Waldichuk. However, Waldichuk is much better early in games, with a 3.65 ERA his first time through the order compared to his 6.07 ERA as a starter. With the A's unlikely to do much scoring on the other side, that's enough to take this line at low juice.

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